The tradition of wall decoration dates back to Egyptian and Roman wall paintings, and the early Chinese produced sheets of rice paper painted with birds, flowers and landscapes. During the Medieval Ages painted patterns on walls and canvas as well as woven tapestries adorned the interior of churches and castles. Thus wallpaper began as a cheap substitute for this rich tapestry and panelling, as a less expensive alternative to the wall-hangings of the wealthy.
The first wallpapers were decorations made for wood panels, printed by wood blocks and then coloured in by hand. Though called wallpaper, the paper was not attached directly to the wall until the 1800s. Instead, it was pasted onto linen and the linen was then attached to the walls. Wallpaper’s popularity increased in Elizabethan England and throughout Europe, a fascination began with these fine papers that offered protection against dampness and an improved ability to handle fireplace smoke. Along with these practical reasons, wallpaper provided a decorative element that could reflect different materials and enhance the room’s interior.